NSW GLRL statement on Religious Freedom Bill

There is no such thing as “equality – but with exceptions”. Following consultation on the second exposure draft, the NSW GLRL (the Lobby) will now oppose any Religious Discrimination Bill as long as Scott Morrison and Christian Porter remain in power.

Convenor of the Lobby, Jack Whitney, stated today “This second draft is a slap in the face. This Coalition Government cannot be trusted to introduce fair, measured and equal laws that protect LGBTI people, women, people with disability, and faith-based communities.”

Whitney further stated that, “The lobby and the LGBTI community extended the olive branch to Scott Morrison during the first round of consultations. We were engaged in the process, genuinely and wholeheartedly… we want to bring communities together, not divide them”.

The Lobby in its consultation reached the view that this second draft is inconsistent, lacks compatibility with state laws, and is significantly more complex. Whitney, who is concerned about the day-to-day reality for LGBTI communities if the Bill is to pass, stated, “It is almost impossible to contemplate such a Bill being applied with our current modern anti-discrimination laws… not to mention completely denigrates the consultation process and signifies that the Coalition Government does not take seriously our concerns”.

The Lobby has consulted with members of parliament, both in the Coalition Government and the Opposition, and it has become clear that there is disagreement within the Coalition, and the Opposition cannot formulate a position from this second draft. Whitney stated Scott Morrison and Christian Porter, “lack the leadership and clarity to bring together the parliament, the LGBTI community, and the faith-based communities on this issue”.

The NSWGLRL believes that rather than further watering down the current legal protections of LGBTI people with this Bill, we need stronger laws that provide further protections for LGBTI people.

The reason for this can be seen most recently in the Newtown Police case of homophobic discrimination brought by four former police employees. Despite offering substantial evidence of homophobic incidents over many years, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal found that common usage of insults like “faggots”, “lezzos” and even “gay cunts” didn’t of itself constitute bullying or harassment. If it was, however, a one-off serious comment of a sexual nature, it would likely be considered sexual harassment. This inconsistency must end. Improvements to legal protections should come from both NSW and federal parliaments in partnership with one another, guided by the LGBTI community.

Jack Whitney 
Convenor – New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby
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